Explaining racial and ethnic differences in antidepressant use among adolescents

James B Kirby, Julie Hudson, G Edward Miller
Medical Care Research and Review: MCRR 2010, 67 (3): 342-63
We investigate the extent to which antidepressant use among adolescents varies across racial and ethnic subgroups. Using a representative sample of U.S. adolescents, we find that non-Hispanic White adolescents are over twice as likely as Hispanic adolescents, and over five times as likely as non-Hispanic Black adolescents to use antidepressants. Results from a decomposition analysis indicate that racial/ethnic differences in characteristics, including household income, parental education, health insurance, and having a usual source of care explain between one half and two thirds of the gap in antidepressant use between Hispanics and non-Hispanic Whites. In contrast, none of the gap between Whites and Blacks in antidepressant use is explained by differences in observed characteristics. Further analysis suggests that there are large racial/ethnic differences in the extent to which behavioral and mental health problems prompt antidepressant use and that this may, in part, account for the large differences across race/ethnicity observed in our study.

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